Psychomachia - Battle of the Soul of Man
It was the perfect game. The lovingly crafted story arc took weeks to prepare and would take the players across amazing terrains and vicious beasts until they finally confronted the great dragon Rodgort! (I know it’s Trogdor backward. It’s funny.) An epic ending to an epic game. Then I realized that none of that was happening. Our wizard was watching TV, the ranger and sorcerer were exchanging memes, and the rest of the 10 people present didn’t have character sheets. As the clock on the wall reached 10:00, I knew my epic vision would never be realized.
Now admit it. That paragraph brought back memories. Nearly every GM I’ve spoken to has horror stories exactly like this one. My story ends with us playing Wushu and still having a nice time, but there is no denying that I was really disappointed. On the drive home, I realized that this happens nearly every game. Not quite this badly, but in some way I wasn’t fulfilled. I thought maybe I was burned out on GMing. Maybe I’ve cracked under the pressure. It was at that moment that the clouds parted and sunlight beamed down a concept so profound it left me in awe. I rushed home and began a long conversation with my wife and a couple of friends to flesh out the concept. When we were done, I knew the people needed to know.
You see, that night I had two others come to me and express their dissatisfaction with the way the game was going. I also had 3 others tell me they were having a blast. I now realize I had two forces working against me. One was the shear number of people. Ten players is unmanageable, period. On top of this, I know realize, I had the wrong game for the wrong players. Some of the people there WANTED to find the cause of all the village attacks. Others wanted to hunt down a dragon and kill him. Still others wanted to watch TV and comment the NPCs attire. Because of this, no one got what they wanted. So to fix this issue once and for all, I decided to create a classification system that would help me identify what games would suit each personality type.
This classification is RPG Story centric since I find that most separations in taste happens on that front. Each person is classified on two axises, Investment and Seriousness. A person invested in the story or the personalities of the game is considered “Invested”. A person not interested in story elements is considered “UnInvested”. On the other axis, a person that enjoys non-competitive and more comedic games are considered “Light-Hearted” while people enjoying emotional or darker games are considered “Serious”. Everyone exists on both axises. I consider myself to be Invested Serious while my wife is Invested Light-Hearted. If I run one of my “emotional quandary” games for her, she would have no fun. She wants something more light-hearted, like an anime game or Wushu. That doesn’t mean she CAN’T have fun with a “serious” game, it’s just not her favorite flavor. Some people HATE vanilla ice cream and some people think it’s ok. The UnInvested are, in my experience, those people that are just their to hang out. They don’t care about the story, they want the fun of being with friends. They tend to be more into silly board games (for the Light-Hearted) or miniature games (for the Serious).
I plan on employing this knowledge on my own and see what the results are. Of the 15 or so people that game with me, only a small handful are Invested-Serious, so I’m going to hold a game specifically for them and see how it goes. Then I’m going to round up all the Invested-Light-Hearted people and run a game for them. This will have the effect of cutting down the number of players per game AND gearing a game toward people that REALLY want to play it! I may be way off base with the theories laid out here, but the more people test them out, the more certain we will all be.